Greeting the Wolf Moon on a Chilly January Night with Warm, Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup…

January 31st, 2010 § 3

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Watching the full moon rise is something of a ritual for me. I note the waxing and waning lunar cycle on my calendar and I pay close attention to the forecast as the moon grows full. Lunar myths and legends have always fascinated me, and I usually to refer to the monthly moon by its name. Although April’s Pink Moon and Autumn’s Harvest Moon tend to be my favorites, I am also quite fond of January’s full, Wolf Moon. When the weather is clear in mid-winter, as it has been for the past few days, evenings in Vermont can be spectacularly beautiful. Sub zero temperatures may be difficult to bear, but they also create some amazing atmospheric conditions. With a warm bowl of soup and a dramatic celestial show on the horizon, I’ve come to embrace and even enjoy my cold nights on the mountain…

January’s Full Wolf Moon

Dried Grass and Staghorn Sumac on a late afternoon in January

Cinnamon colored remnants in sparkling snow at sunset

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

(makes approximately 4 quarts of soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, (about 12 cloves), peeled and chopped to a paste in a food processor
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole, as you prefer)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (optional – you may sub all 2% milk for low fat diets)
  • 6 cups peeled and cubed yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 whole, fresh sage leaves, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock/soup pot over low heat. Add the garlic paste and carefully cook until the paste begins to turn gold, stirring constantly. Add in the vegetable/chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Scoop out the bay and sage leaves, and carefully pour batches of the hot soup into a blender, (do not overfill the blender!). Puree each batch until smooth and return to the saucepan. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Add milk and cream and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh thyme and sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh, crusty bread.

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Article and Photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not repost or republish photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Lovely, Luminous Leaves: Potager Purples, Reds and Rainbow Bright Lights…

January 29th, 2010 § 1

Stained Glass Lettuce

Though the wind is howling and the temperature has dropped into the single digits, visions of sun-drenched gardens and glowing vegetables colored my sweet dreams last night. The first box of seed arrived from Botanical Interests this week, and more orders from around the country are on the way. Although I won’t be starting garden plants indoors for another month or so, sorting through the beautifully illustrated packages of ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach, ‘Five Color Silverbeet’ Swiss chard, and ‘Red Winter’ kale from Botanical Interests reminded me of a particularly glorious day late last summer, when brilliant low light turned all the leaves in my potager to stained glass.

Vegetable gardens are tempting and delicious of course, but they can also be simply beautiful to behold. Let your mind wander a bit as you chisel through the ice on your windshield. Think of the brilliant colors of summer; the endless combinations of hues and textures for the dinner plate as well as the garden path. Join me in my not-quite February, fantasy garden tour at ladybug level. Glorious green spinach. Purple cabbage. Red Rumple lettuce. Heirloom nasturtiums and Bright Lights Swiss chard. Mmmm… can you taste the color yet? It won’t be long. Soon you can plant your own rainbow…

Saturated Spikes

Luminous Leafy

Backlit Botanical Beauty

Neon in the Afternoon

Technicolor Cabbage

Fuchsia Fantasy

Tangerine Tunnel

Living Flame

The Sour Yellow Swirl

Vibrant Veining

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Photographs and article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not republish or post images or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Great ! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Guilty Pleasures: Dreams of Spring and Pretty Little Things …

January 26th, 2010 § 2

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’ in the walkway last spring…

Springtime. Why yes… you do remember springtime? The smell of fresh narcissus and damp earth? It’s not so far away. Really, (or so I tell myself). On those blissful days when the mercury rises a bit, and the walkway fills with slush, I can almost picture my path carpeted in bulbs. Still, in January, it’s hard to believe that those pretty little daffodils are sleeping beneath the ice and snow. But they are. I have faith. I can wait.

This is the time of year when I really revel in my guilty pleasures. The White Flower Farm catalogue hangs, edges damp and crinkled, from the rim of my claw foot tub. I close my eyes and as I breathe in the lavender scented steam, visions of bluebells and moody hued violets color my dreams. Heaven. I’m in heaven. The garden, in my bubble-bath fantasies, is of course weed-free, and bug-free and completely devoid of all disappointment. It’s a lovely place.

Winter is a necessary down time. We all need our rest, don’t we? It’s a good time to take stock; to plan; to make lists. Kicking around the potting shed, I notice a few things need replacing. Many of my watering cans seem to have gone AWOL, and my rain-gear is looking a bit tatty. Then I spot my old, ugly garden clogs in the corner and I remember how they pinch and hurt my toes. I could use a new pair of shoes this year. I reach down to have a closer look at those nasty clodhoppers, but there is a box in my way. I lift it. Oh, what a light box. I read the label. “Dahlias”. Oh… Dahlias. Yes – that’s how it always starts. You see, I had to move the box. And now, I am thinking about them. I go back into the kitchen and put on some water for tea. Dahlias. Swan Island Dahlias. Time to fill my cup with summertime dreams…

Hunter Women’s Original Clog, Red

OXO Watering Cans in Rainbow Bright Colors

Packable Rain Poncho

This is Swan Island’s ‘Honeymoon’. Do you think I have to get married first? Look at all the suitors… how can I commit to just one?

Swan Island Dahlia’s ‘Sheer Heaven’. Mmm. I’m not going to argue with that name. Can you believe the blush?  Sigh.

Well hello lover. My, my, my. Won’t you be my Valentine? I think I have the perfect spot for this one. Just look at the violet tint on the petals!

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use photographs or text excerpts without permission. Thank you. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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What’s Up Doc? Waskilly Seeds and a Recipe for Velvety Baked Carrots…

January 23rd, 2010 § 7

Baked Velvet Carrots

Beautiful Bolero …

Flat leaf Italian parsley from the windowsill herb garden…

Sliced Bolero Carrots…

We all know that old Elmer Fudd thinks Bugs Bunny is a terribly, waskilly wabbit. But frankly I think Elmer has it wrong. I think it’s Bugs Bunny’s carrot that’s a bit waskilly – at least as a seed. Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny carrot seeds are notoriously difficult to sow. Tiny, fine and lighter than a feather, it’s easy to lose track of those little devils. They stick to the packet; slip through your fingers; blow down your shirt; and before you know it they are spilling all over the ground. Waskilly Kawits. Unfortunately, if you want beautifully shaped, full size carrots, then seed spacing is pretty darn important. But you know, I’m also fairly sure that I’m not the only gardener to lose track of how many carrot seeds have fallen into the soil, and how close they ended up being planted together. To solve the spacing problem, some gardeners broadcast seed with sand or coffee grounds. Other gardeners have showed me how they create elaborately folded paper contraptions. And a few frugal New England gardeners I know have ended up breaking down and buying pre-seeded carrot tape. Me? Oh I am stubborn. I usually struggle through the planting and then, weeks later, I test my patience by thinning seedlings with a pair of scissors on a buggy day. But there is another, fully-organic, OMRI approved solution: pelleted seeds. This year I am going to give them a go…

Pelleted carrot seeds with radishes, (photo courtesy of The Old School House Plantery)

Never heard of pelleted, (or pelletized), seeds? Well, they are just regular old seeds, coated with an organic substance, (usually an inert material like starch), that makes them easier to see and handle. The coating is sort of like the dusty, crusty stuff on the outside of a chocolate truffle, (sorry chocoholics, I didn’t mean to do that to you). If you are planning on planting a vegetable garden with kids, or if you have less-than-steady hands, or less-than perfect eyesight, (or, err,  less-than saintly patience, like me), pelletized seeds can come in very handy. I just ordered up pelleted Bolero, Mokum and Sugarsnax carrot seed from Johnny’s Seeds yesterday. I also chose a few packs of pelleted lettuce seed, since I find them a bit waskilly as well. Johnny’s Seeds is a wonderful employee-owned company in the great state of Maine, and they carry a wide variety of organic, heirloom and gourmet vegetables. I order many of my unusual vegetable seeds from Johnny’s Seeds and the other great online companies, including Renee’s Garden Seeds and Botanical Interests, listed in the sidebar at right under “seeds”. I have found that each company usually has some special variety I want, (such as the pelleted seeds from Johnny’s), so I always end up spreading my orders around the country a bit. And this year, I notice seeds are selling out faster than usual, so it’s always helpful to have a few reliable sources.

Carrots are a cook’s kitchen staple. The foundation of many stocks, carrots also add color, sweetness and vitamins to everything from salads, appetizers and soups to savory baked dishes, casseroles and breads. And can you imagine life without carrot cake and cream cheese frosting? For such a rewarding crop, carrots are remarkably easy to grow in the garden. These bright colored veggies aren’t fussy, but they do like very deep, loose, compost-rich soil. So if you have rocky loam, you might have better luck with carrots if you raise your beds with mounds or planters. Many gardeners use radishes as companions for carrots to mark the row, and to help break the crusty soil. Of course it also helps to keep the soil evenly moist during germination, (but be sure not to overwater carrots during the growing season). During the hot summer, carrots will benefit from a layer of mulch; keeping their roots cool and their tops warm enhances flavor. I also like to shade carrot roots by planting them between rows of leafy lettuce, spinach and/or chard. If you sow a fast maturing variety in the early part of the season, (when soil temps reach a consistent 60° F), and then plant a second crop when the soil is warm enough to plant tomatoes, (70-75°), you can harvest carrots all year long, (and for those of us with frozen tundra, carrots will also store well in root cellars, layered in damp sand).

Hungry yet? There’s nothing like a serving of bright orange, velvety carrots to remind me of summer’s sweetness, and I truly love this rich, savory old recipe. Brilliantly colored baked carrots are the perfect side dish for a potato-vegetable gratin or a roasted or baked pretty-much-anything. Mmmmm. Sweet Bolero, my lovely carrot, you don’t seem quite so rascally now….

Greene on Greens

Velvety Baked Carrots

(an oldie but a goodie, from Bert Greene’s Greene on Greens cookbook)

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a side dish):

3 1/2 c       homemade vegetable stock or chicken broth

1 pound     peeled carrots cut in half lengthwise

3 Tbs         unsalted butter

3 Tbs         all-purpose flour

1/2 c          heavy cream

1/8 tsp       ground allspice

1/8 tsp       fresh grated nutmeg

dash          Sriracha hot chili sauce, (or other pepper sauce)

to taste      salt

to taste      fresh ground pepper

1/4 c          fresh bread crumbs

2 Tbs         fresh chopped parsley

1 Tbs         grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wash and peel carrots, and slice them in half lengthwise, (more if they are particularly large). In a medium saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups of vegetable, (or chicken), broth to a boil.  Slowly add the carrots and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the carrots, uncovered, until they are soft. Test with a fork after 25 minutes. Drain the carrots over a bowl, reserving the broth. Place the carrots in a separate bowl and mash, (lightly with a potato masher), until smooth but still attractively textured. Set aside.

Return the saucepan to the stove and melt 2 Tbs. of butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, continuously stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add 1 cup of the reserved cooking stock and whisk together while brining the mix to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the nutmeg, allspice, pepper sauce. Whisk in 1/2 cup of cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture from the heat and combine with the mashed carrots. Pour into a buttered, shallow baking dish and set aside.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir into the butter, cooking and turning until golden brown. Remove from the heat and add in the chopped parsley. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the carrots and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the topping is bubbling.

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use photographs or text excerpts without permission, (see contact at left). Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams.

Thank you !

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Force Early Blooming Branches for a Bit of Springtime on a Winter Day…

January 21st, 2010 § 3

Forced Blossoms – Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

An Early Whiff of Spring

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’,  forced in a turquoise vase…

What a gift! A beautifully warm, clear, blue-sky day in midwinter. I am itching to pull on my boots and go play. The frost coated snow drifts outside sparkle and tempt like cream-puffs with sugar icing. I have so much mid-winter pruning to do. This week, I will begin with my own garden, and next I will move on to a few others in my care. One of my favorite parts of midwinter pruning is the left-overs. Oh how I adore all of the gnarly, crooked branches loaded with swollen buds: pink apple blossoms; vibrant purple redbud; intoxicatingly fragrant vernal witch hazel; and my favorite, the spicy-seductive bodnant viburnum. My cellar is already loaded with branches, and I am greedy for more, more, more!

So, out come the hand pruners, the bow and folding saws, the oil can and whetstone. This is prime-time for thinning and shaping the branches of deciduous fruit and ornamental trees. If there is any garden task I truly adore, (and I am passionate about many!), it is pruning. I love the art of sculpting living things and I am eager to get outdoors after so many weeks of cold weather. One of my clients has nick-named me Edwina Scissorhands. It’s no joke. Edward and I have a lot in common. I frequently write about pruning and last year I presented my first seminars on the subject. You can read last year’s essay and notes on pruning basics by clicking through here…

Of course, you needn’t be an obsessive pruner to enjoy forcing blossoms. All you need is a pair of sharp, clean by-pass pruners and a spring-blooming tree or shrub, (see some good candidates below). This is the perfect time to harvest yourself a little bit of May in January. Now, because I am a professional gardner, I am going to emphasize that you must do this correctly, especially if you are working in your garden, (remember never take too many branches from any one specimen!). But even if you are harvesting wild pussy willow in an abandoned lot, think of this as an opportunity to learn or practice an important horticultural skill. Have a good look at the branch that you are about to cut before you snip, snip. Do you know what it is? Try to id your branch before you cut. Are the twigs or buds lined up opposite one another on the branch, or are they alternating like a pole ladder? If they are opposite, cut straight across the branch, ( about 1/4 inch or so), just above the pair of buds beneath the length of branch you are cutting, (not too close or you may injure the buds, not too far away or the stem will die-back leaving an unsightly stub). If you are cutting from a specimen with alternating buds, cut at a shallow angle, sloping away from the bud, (this is for shedding water, to prevent rot of the bud ). If you are intimidated, just go on out and practice on some scrub or brambles first, then move on to more desirable plants. This is fun – trust me …

If you have never forced branches before, be on the look out for swollen buds on warm January days. Sweet-scented witch hazel, early blooming viburnum and forsythia are all great choices for forcing. Crab apples and other ornamental fruit trees are very popular with florists, but you may also want to try quince, azalea, redbud, juneberry, magnolia, and of course, fuzzy pussy-willow. Leave the lilacs and summer bloomers alone, (you want small flowered, early blooming shrubs like plum, for example, with full, swollen buds), and remember that you will get better results if you harvest on an above-freezing day, (the work is also more pleasant this way!).

Once you harvest your branches, bring them inside and pound the stems with a mallet or hammer, (see picture below). Not only is this kind-of fun, but it’s also important to help the branch with water uptake. Collect the branches in a bucket of slightly cool – room temperature water, and place them in a cool room with low light or, ideally, a cellar. After a few days, bring out a few branches at a time, and arrange them in vases filled with water. Once moved to warmer rooms, the buds will swell and the petals will slowly unfurl. This is such a beautiful process, and if you keep your house on the cool-side, you can prolong the show. If you change the vase water every few days, many forced flowering branches will last a month or longer. Adding a bit, (just a teaspoon per gallon), of environmentally safe bleach-substitute will keep the water fresh and also aid in extending the life of the blossoms…

Pounding woody stems helps with water uptake in the blossoming branches

Felco 6 by-pass pruners for small hands

How lovely to enjoy the beauty of two seasons in one! I wish you should smell the bodnant viburnum blossoms in my kitchen. I wonder if there will ever be a way to transmit fragrance via the internet? Only the good smells, of course! Well, I am off to harvest more branches now. I will meet you back here soon…

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Please contact me before using images or text excerpts from this site. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you!

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Indoor Gardening with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme on the Kitchen Countertop…

January 19th, 2010 § 13

Windowsill Herb Basket

Hmm… how about a couple of basil leaves and some fresh oregano in the tomato sauce? Yes? And why not add some chopped rosemary to the bread dough? Of course you would like a little sprig of mint in your tea, wouldn’t you? I really enjoy cooking, and I love food – so I can’t imagine a kitchen without fresh herbs. Life would be pretty bland without a bit of natural spice ! In summertime, herbs multitask in my kitchen-garden, serving as lures for beneficial insects, repellents for bad-bugs, beautiful and fragrant design elements, and of course delicious additions to drinks and an endless variety of meals. But why stop growing these tasty plants when the snow flies? Most herbs are no more difficult to care for than any other houseplant, and they will reward your tastebuds for your efforts every day. If you have never tried growing fresh herbs indoors, I encourage you to give it a try.

Many culinary herbs can be grown indoors from cuttings taken from your garden durning the growing year. Oregano, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary and basil are a just a few of the many herbs that can be easily propagated.  Of course entire plants can be moved back and forth, inside and out, as the seasons change. If you grow herbs in pots on a deck, porch or terrace during the summer months, it makes good economic sense to either bring your plants indoors for the winter, or propagate new plants from cuttings for your kitchen windowsill. In addition, you may want to try growing some herbs from seed. Parsley, cilantro, summer savory, basil and dill all do well when started from seed indoors. Herbs started indoors can be planted outside when temperatures rise.

Unobstructed south facing windows are ideal for growing sun-loving herbs indoors, but eastern or western facing windows with clear light will do. What’s most important is that your plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine, or a full day of very bright, (if indirect), light. My kitchen windows face west, and the herbs growing on my countertop do quite well throughout the winter. North facing rooms tend to be too dark and chilly for most plants. So, if you live in an apartment with northern exposure, you will have more success growing your herbs beneath a full-specturm light, like the one pictured below…

Intelligent Plant Light – Indoor Grow Light – $39.95 from Windowbox via Amazon.com

Although some herbs, (such as mint, basil and parsley), prefer moist conditions, none of these plants like to sit in soggy soil. Use a good quality potting mix and a well-drained container for your plants. Mediterranean herbs, like rosemary and lavender, are particularly sensitive to overwatering, so be sure to allow their soil to dry-out a bit between drinks. Try to place Mediterranean herbs in your sunniest indoor spot, keeping in mind that warm, dry climates are where these plants originated. Spindly, weak new growth and pale leaves are usually the first indicators of inadequate light. If your herbs are content in their surroundings, they will reward you with steady growth. Be sure to prune your plants regularly, even if you don’t intend to enjoy the harvest, (try freezing or drying your cuttings or pass them along to a friend).

Herbs are generally trouble-free plants when sited in gardens that satisfy their needs. Indoors however, pests usually have no natural predators, and they can occasionally become a problem. White flies, mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and other uninvited guests may turn up on your plants. If you notice their tell-tale signs,(webs, sticky residue, cottony clusters), attack the problem immediately before things get out of hand. A soap and water solution sprayed on plants, (or used as a dip), or horticultural oil can solve many pest problems. But if these methods fail, look for a safe OMRI approved product in a local garden center. If you are sure that your plant is free of pests, and isn’t overwatered, yet you notice yellowing leaves toward the bottom of larger plants, it may be time to transplant your pot-bound herb to a larger container.

I will be writing more about edible gardens in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are looking for online seed sources, check out the links listed under “Seeds” in the links bar to the right. Renee’s Garden Seeds is usually my first choice and favorite source for organically grown culinary herb seeds. For more helpful information on growing culinary herbs I recommend the two books listed below, (both in my own library). And for great herb tips online, including delicious recipes, visit the  Herb Companion Magazine website, or subscribe via the link below…

Herb Companion

The Herb Gardener: A Guide for All Seasons – Susan McClure

Your Backyard Herb Garden – Miranda Smith

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Gourmet Gardening: Seed Potatoes – Plus an Easy Recipe for Oven Roasted Fingerlings with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan Cheese…

January 16th, 2010 § 1

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan in an oven-table baking dish by Emile Henry…

Look a little tempting? I confess I just finished off my second bowl of fingerlings about an hour ago. Mmmm. Delicious. As you may remember, last week I touched on the subject of gourmet potatoes in my post on potato leek soup. My country-neighbors, the Millers, operate a small greenhouse called The Old Schoolhouse Plantery where they grow and sell rare conservatory plants, annuals, herbs and gourmet vegetable starts. John also sells his organic produce at the local farmer’s market. Throughout the winter, his booth is a popular place to find gourmet root vegetables  – particularly potatoes. This past spring, upon John’s recommendation, I grew a few gourmet potatoes from seed purchased at Ronnigers Potato Farm, and they were the tastiest spuds I have ever eaten. I tell you, there is nothing like the reward of a delicious crop to motivate a gardener to keep on planting. After cooking a few dishes with gourmet fingerling potatoes, I am convinced that an entire corner of my potager should be dedicated to these tubers. I tried oven roasting some fingerlings with an olive oil/parmesan coating today, (pictured in the baking dish above), and they were lip-smacking good!

This year, I am planning to add many more gourmet potatoes to my potager; including ‘rose fin apple’ fingerlings and other colorful varieties, such ‘all blue’ and ‘purple viking’. Although winter has only just arrived, I am already thinking about this year’s seed order. Seed potatoes are planted in the garden when the soil temperature reaches approximately 45 ° F, (7° C). Usually, the soil reaches this temperature by mid-spring here; about three weeks before the last frost-date. If you live in a warmer climate, potatoes may go in by late winter, (check zone maps and potato seed catalogs for specific location planting times). When plotting out your vegetable garden, remember to rotate your crops each year. To avoid disease and confuse pests, it’s best never to plant potatoes in last-year’s tomato bed. Marigold, bush beans, corn and cabbage are a few good potato companions. But again, in order to avoid insect pests and diseases, locate crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins in the opposite corner of your garden as they are not good companions for potatoes. Many gardeners start potatoes in shallow trenches and then ‘hill’ them as they grow. I will go over this method and the straw-mulching hill method as we get closer to planting time.

Right now I am obsessively thinking about all the delicious gourmet potato varieties I want to grow and how much room I can devote to this versatile crop. Seed potatoes are planted approximately one foot apart, so they take up some space in the garden. Last season, I had great success with the ‘Desiree’. This is a beautiful pink-skinned potato with yellow flesh; one that stores well and holds its texture when cooked. Easy to grow, this popular European-gourmet potato is resistant to many diseases, including blights. Of course the fingerling varieties have definitely become favorites. When it comes to flavor and cooking texture, (especially when pureed in soups), it’s hard to beat the ‘Rose Finn Apple’ fingerling potato, (pictured in this post). ‘LaRatte’ is another great gourmet potato, with firm texture and a unique, nutty flavor. Both of these varieties are on my shopping list.

If you haven’t tried growing gourmet fingerlings, you may want to give them some space in your kitchen garden this year. Perhaps you’ve never tasted these delicious potatoes? Well then… I encourage you to pick some up at your local winter farmer’s market – I think you will quickly come to understand what all the fuss is about…

‘Rose Finn Apple’ Fingerling Potatoes from Ronniger’s – before and after a scrub down with a bristle brush…

Ronnigers Potato Farm Online

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Parmesan and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients:

(serves 4, double recipe to increase quantities as you like)

2 lb           Fingerling potatoes, washed and cut in half lengthwise

1/4 c         Olive oil

1/4 c         All purpose flour

1/4 c         Reggiano parmesan cheese, grated

1 tsp         Sea salt, fresh ground or regular table salt

1 tsp         Black pepper, fresh ground

sprigs       Fresh rosemary and thyme, a few sprigs to taste

(try this with a clove of garlic and other herbs if you like)

Directions:

Preheat oven, (rack toward the top), to 475 degrees fahrenheit.

In a small glass bowl, (or in a large plastic bag), measure in olive oil, flour and parmesan. Add salt and pepper. Stir or shake to mix well.

In a large bowl, toss cut fingerlings with 1 tbs olive oil to lightly coat. Add dry mix to the large bowl, (or add potatoes to the large plastic bag), and toss with hands, (or shake bag). Be sure the potatoes are thoroughly and evenly coated.

Coat an oven-to-table baking dish with the remaining olive oil and arrange the potatoes cut -side up. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and thyme.

Roast for approximately 15 minutes, Turn the potatoes and roast for approximately 15 more minutes more. Turn one last time and roast until crisp and golden brown, (approximately 10-15 more minutes).

Cool dish for a few minutes, garnish with a few more sprigs of herbs and serve hot with a tablespoon of sour cream if you like.


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Photographs and Article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any purpose without prior written consent. Please do not republish images or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here ? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you ! Michaela

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A Prayer for Haiti…

January 15th, 2010 § 2

Sending Hope. Sending Help. Sending Prayers.

Send what you can to Haiti…

American Red Cross

United Nations World Food Programme

Stand With Haiti – Partners in Health

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use copyrighted images or text excerpts without permission.

Thank you !

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Lush Foliage for Low-Light Rooms : Terrarium Bowls Continued …

January 14th, 2010 § 7

A pedestal-bowl terrarium filled with Adiantum, (Maidenhair fern), Calathea lanceolata and Selanginella kraussiana, (Club moss), warms up a modern metallic vanity in the powder room…

Grey. Grey. Grey. Today the sky is one big, dull, expanse of monochromatic ash. On days like this, with thick, low clouds and no sunshine to be found, low-light rooms inside the house can seem particularly dark. Even the sunniest of homes usually have a few shadowy spaces, and although the hard metal finishes in modern bathrooms, and cool-colored interior walls may sparkle on sunny days, in the dead-of winter, this kind of decor can leave you cold. These gloomy spots always seem to benefit from a splash of lush, verdant color.

Houseplants can add natural warmth to indoor spaces, particularly those with modern, minimalist designs. Sleek materials, like stainless steel and glass, are easily enlivened with a touch of green foliage. True, dark rooms can be a challenge for indoor gardening – cactus, herbs and succulents will wither in dank spaces. But filtered light will support many beautiful foliage plants, such as ferns and moss, and a few blooming tropicals, (including African violets, begonias and orchids).

Terrariums are a great way to display rainforest tropicals and shade loving plants of all kinds. Humidity tends to be higher in bathrooms, making this room the perfect place for moisture-seeking plants. My tiny first-floor powder room was looking particularly gloomy last week, so I put together an open terrarium in a glass-pedestal bowl. This wasn’t an expensive project, in fact the total cost, including both plants and glass bowl, came to $16. This terrarium, (pictured in my bathroom in the photo at top), includes maidenhair fern, (Adiantum), calathea, (C. lanceolata), and club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), all purchased from The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, just down the road. I love how this tiny bowl completely changes the mood of my metallic little space.

Over the holidays, I made a low-light terrarium gift for my sister, (pictured below). This large, thick-glass bowl is filled with an African violet, (Saintpaulia), club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), and a beautiful begonia called ‘Kit Kat’. I added a clear glitter ball, (from Michael’s craft store), for a bit of sparkle. My sister lives in an old New England home, with many dark, interior rooms. Low-light plants like begonias thrive in these conditions. However, wood-stoves and dry heating-systems can make for a challenging house-plant environment. This is where terrariums come in particularly handy. Glass-houses, even tiny ones, hold moisture and increase the humidity in the terrarium’s micro-climate. Although open-bowl planters require more attention than closed, cloche-style or Wardian case terrariums, they have a few advantages. Begonias, and certain other plants, can sometimes suffer from mold in an excessively moist, closed terrarium. Since my sister has a new baby to care for, I wanted to give her a relatively easy-to-care for gift. We’ll check in to see how she rates it in a few more weeks.

When designing indoor containers for dimly-lit room, it helps to pay attention to foliage texture and pattern. Try to select a few different textures; combining smooth, lacey, velvety, and/or hairy leaves for contrast. Also have a look at leaf-pattern. To my eye, leaves can be even more spectacular than bloom. Colored veining, bold stripes and splotches, and tonal variation are all things to look for in plants. Begonia, viola, peperomia, calathea and pilea are all easy to come by in greenhouses, and offer a wide range of foliage color and texture. I like to use ferns to lighten-up the look of a terrarium, (particularly the maidenhair ferns), and mosses of all kinds add a velvety touch to a glass container. Glass balls, mirrors, prisms and other sparkly details can also help to catch light and reflect color in a dark space.

For instructions on how to create a terrarium, and for helpful resources and more ideas, you can travel back to my earlier posts, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…“, and “…Part Two“. Stay tuned for more indoor gardening projects to make your winter a bit more lush…

A terrarium-bowl filled with Begonia ‘Kit Kat’, Saintpaulia, (African violet), Selaginella kraussiana, (Club moss), and a sparkle-ball accent

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

Beautiful Pre-Planted Terraria, Containers and Supplies are Available at…

VivaTerra - Eco Living With Style

shopterrain.com

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Providing for our Feathered Friends in the Winter Garden – Part One…

January 12th, 2010 § 1

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

Last week when snowshoeing through the forest, I was amused by a small group of chickadees bouncing from branch to branch in a hemlock stand. With so few sounds in the woodland at this time of year, the chirping birds really stood out and made me laugh. I try not to anthropomorphize – but they really did sound like they were having a passinate debate about something very important. And who knows, maybe they were.

I love watching birds in my garden and in the forest surrounding my home, so I tend to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with birds in mind. Come autumn, instead of cutting my garden back, I always leave my perennials and annuals, particularly those with seed-heads, standing for the overwintering birds. Safe backyard-havens with conifer shelters, (such as hemlock and spruce), winter fruit, and seeds are very attractive to birds. The western side of my home is buffered by a hemlock stand, where birds congregate, protected from the wind. I have also noticed juncos and sparrows crouching beneath the ornamental juniper along my walkway. Sometimes a group of of little birds will surprise me when they take flight from the shrubs in the entry garden, reminding me that they are making use of the space even when I am not.

In addition to the many cultivars of winterberry, (ilex verticillata), viburnum, cotoneaster, and other fruiting shrubs in my yard, I have also planted native perennials for seed. Beautiful gold and purple finches are always attracted to coneflower, (Echinacea), black-eyed susan, (Rudbeckia), ornamental mint, (Nepeta), and bee-balm, (Monarda). Standing sunflower heads and other annuals left overwinter in the vegetable garden attract both small and large birds, and of course the occasional squirrel.

As winter drags on, supplemental feeders with seed are useful if you want to continue providing for, (and watching), birds in your backyard. Below I have linked some excellent resources for gardeners interested in birds, (including books and recommended feeders). If you are planning to hang feeders or scatter seed in your yard, please be sure to keep cats indoors, and protect visiting birds from neighborhood felines by siting feeders away from potential ambush spots, (cats like to lurk in shrubs or beneath porch hide-outs). Doctor Goof, (my overweight, senior bird-watcher), is mainly an indoor cat. Although I allow her supervised time outdoors in summer, I don’t let her out when birds come here to feed in winter, (it’s safer for her indoors anyway). Also, be sure to keep all feeders clean, (wash at least twice a year), to prevent mold and spread of disease. Remember too that birds need access to fresh water year round. I have natural brooks and ponds on my property, but if you don’t there are plenty of water-bowl options. My father has a heated bird-bath for winter, and I have noticed birds visiting it regularly.

Of course, not everyone visiting this site lives in a wintery climate. If your are lucky enough to be enjoying mild temperatures at this time of year, then chances are good you will have hummingbirds, as well as other local and migratory birds, in your garden. There are a few hummingbird and songbird resources here as well, and there will be more to come.

Over the next few weeks I will be passing along more information on how to attract and support birds in the garden. But for now, one of the most important and trusted resources for birders is, of course, the Aububon society. The Audubon website is a great place to visit if you are interested in learning more about our feathered friends. There is a wealth of information on bird feeding and bird watching for everyone from amateurs to seasoned ornithologists.

Are you seeing birds in your garden right now? A reader, (who wishes to remain anonymous), sent in the photos of Black-eyed Junco and the Cardinal you see here. If you have taken some great bird photos, consider sending them in to be featured on The Gardener’s Eden, (with credit of course), over the coming weeks. And please feel free to share your bird-sightings in the comments here. I’d love to hear about the winged visitors to your backyard havens…

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis)

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens

The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible

The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, And Treats (Rodale Organic Gardening Book)

projectsforbirdersgarden200

Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You can Make to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Bird-Friendly Haven

Smith and Hawken for Target Bird Feeder

Teardrop Roosting Pocket

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Avant Garden Berkshire Lodge Feeder

Thistle Feeder

Bird Quest SBF5Y 36

Natural Bird Roost : Shelter

Acorn Roosting Pocket

Hummingbird Gardens: Turning Your Yard Into Hummingbird Heaven (21st-Century Gardening Series)

Hummingbird Feeder

Etched Hummingbird Feeder

Humming Bird Feeder Glass Crackle

Bird Brain, Crackle Hummingbird Feeder, Yellow

audubon oriole feeder

Plastic Oriole Feeder

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Article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Potato Leek Soup: The Antidote to Brrr ! Plus Tips on Storing Leeks in the Root Cellar…

January 10th, 2010 § 1

potato-leek-soup ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comPotato Leek Soup

Brrr is certainly the word. It’s really cold here in the northeast. I keep hearing rumors of rising temperatures, but so far they are just that – rumors. I take comfort in the fact that there’s a good snow-cover insulating the garden, and inside, my wood stove is cranking out some serious BTUs. But just to be sure I keep the chill at bay, I have made a big pot of potato leek soup to keep me warm. Mmmm. Isn’t it wonderful how a simmering pot of soup fills the entire house with fragrance ? Oh how I love that. Potato leek soup is particularly aromatic and earthy – just the thing on a grey day. Plus this year, everything in this soup comes from the garden, and there is a kind of comfort coming from that as well.

2009 was a great year for growing leeks. It may not have been a great year for most other things – but it was definitely a leek year. Rain. Rain. Rain. Well, it’s a good thing that leeks love moisture. They grow best in a cooling trench filled with rich, but well-drained soil, (it’s almost impossible to over-water and overfeed them). They are truly one of my favorite crops, and because they store well in wooden boxes of damp sand , (in a cellar is best with temp. range 32-42 F), they can be enjoyed all winter, (it’s best to keep leeks away from other vegetables in the root cellar, as they produce a strong, overpowering odor).

When I bring leeks up from the cellar, (or when digging them to eat straight from the garden), I take care to wash them thoroughly in a sink filled with cool water. It’s important to get rid of all the sand, so I soak them first and rinse between the layers, (with the dark green ends pointing down). For this particular recipe, the dark parts are chopped off.  After cutting, I rinse them one more time. No one likes sand in their soup !

Potato leek soup can be made with many different kinds of potatoes, from everyday white to gourmet gold. I used some of the smallish white potatoes I have on hand in the root cellar, (an unmarked variety from Agway), but I am going to be planting some more interesting varieties from Ronnigers in the coming season. My country-neighbors, the Millers, have been educating me about gourmet potatoes, (they are British, and they know their roots!). The more flavorful the potato, the better the soup ! And speaking of flavor – fresh herbs make all the difference in home cooking, and having them close-by insures that they will be used daily. I grow parsley in the hoop-house year-round, and I keep thyme going on the kitchen windowsill. A few herbs also make for a pretty garnish in the bowl.

The recipe below is one from a stained and curled-up card in my box. I’ve also noticed a few variations online recently. One from David Lebovitz looks particularly delightful, as does an older post from Elise Bauer on her blog, Simply Recipes. Lebovitz’s soup is sophisticated and smooth, and Bauer’s is hearty and chunky, (both of these sites are great resources for home cooks). My own recipe lies somewhere between the two.

So it may be cold outside, but I have the antidote here on the stove. Soup is definitely ON !


Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8 ):

3-4       Leeks – dark green ends cut off, (washed thoroughly to remove sand),

cut lengthwise and chopped, ( light white to light green parts), very coarsely.

3 tbs    Butter

2 c       Water

2 c       Vegetable or chicken stock (homemade is best)

2 lbs    Potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces

2           Bay leaves

2 tsp     Fresh thyme, washed and chopped fine (plus extra for garnish )

2 tbs     Fresh parsley, washed and chopped fine

1 tsp     Salt

1/2 tsp  Fresh ground white pepper

1/8 tsp  Sriracha,(“rooster”), hot chili sauce, (or sub tabasco )

1tsp       Per bowl, creme fraiche , (or thick sour cream), for serving

Directions:

In a good size stock pot, melt 3 tbs of butter. Add leeks, salt and pepper and cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Watch the leeks carefully, and do not let them brown !

Add water, vegetable or chicken stock, potatoes and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft all the way through, (check with a fork).

Remove bay leaves and carefully puree 3/4 of the soup in a blender, (not a food processor). You will need to do this in two batches or you risk burning yourself with an over-filled blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot. If you prefer a completely smooth soup, then puree the entire batch. I like some potato chunks. Add herbs and Sriracha sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Continue simmering for at least 10 – 15 minutes.

Serve warm in bowls garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprigs of fresh thyme.

Fresh thyme from the windowsill garden


Leeks and potatoes, washed and cut…

The Secret Ingredient…

potato-leek-soup-2 ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden.compgThe antidote to Brrr: Mmmm!

Tracking Animals in Snow and the Woodland Garden in Winter…

January 8th, 2010 § 6

The woodland path at the edge of the garden…

On a wintery day earlier this week, after a fresh snowfall, I headed outside with my warm alpaca hat and a pair of Atlas Snowshoes. In January, the native forest at Ferncliff is living fairytale; papery beech leaves rustle in wind, and lacy shadows dance on sparkling snow. Although the woodland appears empty in winter, this is only an illusion. All around me I find evidence of busy forest inhabitants. Both hunter and hunted, the strolling fox and scampering mouse, leave tell-tale footprints in the snow. Louise Forrest’s Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, has been my constant companion on winter walks for years now. Tracking guides are useful year-round to help identify local animals and follow their activities.

Following the trails of forest animals, both in the wild and around the garden, has become a favorite winter pastime. And a long hike along the ledge is a good excuse for a big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream later…

Traffic jam in the forest – some rodent activity at the base of a tree…

The carnivore, I suspect a red fox, close behind…

Evidence of the hunted:  foraging mice…

Lichen covered ledge – brilliant green in the monochromatic landscape…

Shadows, delicate as lace on the snow-covered forest floor…

The tracks of humankind – I just discovered that someone with initials “JTA” passed through here eight years ago…

Somehow a woodland aster remains, through wind, ice and snow…

The guardian, standing silently at forest’s edge

Rudbeckia remnants – January 2010

Miscanthus sinensis and Viburnum in the morning light – January 2010

Cotoneaster berries in snow

Winter shadows and rust

***

Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Please do not use photographs or excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

***


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A New Year’s Resolution for Gardeners: Making Informed Choices About Gardening Practices and Products to Support a Healthy, Natural Environment…

January 5th, 2010 § 3

We  ♥ Mother Earth

The new year often brings about a desire for change and personal reckoning. We make promises, resolutions and plans to better ourselves and the world around us. Over the past couple of years, many people have committed to building environmentally conscious, self-sufficient lives. As a result, gardening, particularly vegetable gardening, has re-emerged as a popular interest and hobby.

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This return to the earth is a good thing. But it is important to remember that even in our backyard vegetable plots and tiny rooftop potagers, the way we garden, and the products and practices we choose for our gardens, all have lasting consequences for our environment. Every action we take in the natural world must be considered carefully. Words like “organic”, “green”. “sustainable” and “eco” are being tossed about freely these days. Buzz words can sometimes be confusing and misleading.

Perhaps the single most important thing we can do as gardeners is to educate ourselves. There are many websites, magazines and books written to help inform gardeners about environmentally sound horticultural practices. If you are new to gardening, or even if you have been tending a plot for decades, publications such as Organic Gardening Magazine, and books, particularly Linda Chalker-Scott’s The Informed Gardener, and Jeff Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line, are essential for up-to-date, accurate scientific information. I will be writing much more about this topic come springtime, but winter is also a great time of year to read and research these important topics, before you begin planting your garden.

If I can send one message out to new gardeners it is this: just because a product or practice is organic, it doesn’t mean that it should be applied or adopted indiscriminately. Take organic pesticides for example. Even OMRI, (Organic Materials Review Institute), approved substances such pyrethrin, rotenone and neem, can be harmful or deadly to beneficial insects, including honeybees and ladybugs. All pesticides, even organic products, should be used sparingly, and only as a last resort in gardens. The best way to avoid diseases and harmful insect infestations is to provide garden plants with the growing conditions they require, and to avoid mono-culture, (growing large numbers of only a few kinds of plants), and environmental stress.

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For new gardeners, I highly recommend learning the basics of vegetable gardening from respected teachers and authors. Edward C. Smith’s The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (10th Anniversary Edition), is an excellent place to start. In addition, Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver, by author Fern Marshall Bradley, can serve as helpful reference to all gardeners. Also remember to take advantage of free, reliable online resources, such as beneficial insect identification sites. Three great online pages: The easy and fun Insectidentification.org, the comprehensive Texas A&M University Vegetable IPM site, and of course Cornell University’s Vegetable MD Online all offer excellent photographs and descriptions to help gardeners recognize natural allies and pick up on small problems before they become large and unmanageable.

I am not a big New Year’s resolutions kind of gal, but January is a good time to turn a new leaf, (even if the trees are still naked). So if you are planning your first vegetable garden this spring, or even if you have been growing your own food for many years, I hope the first leaf you turn this year dangles from the tree of knowledge. Education is a life-long process. With the help of solid, scientific information, we can work with nature to cultivate a safer, healthier garden environment for all…

The Nasturtium Seat in the Potager at Ferncliff

Early Greens in the Potager at Ferncliff


The Informed Gardener by horticulturalist, Linda Chalker-Scott

Rodale’s Magazine, Organic Gardening (2-year)

Jeff Gillaman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line

***

Article and photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

This article originally appeared as a guest post at The Honeybee Conservancy Blog, please pay this important non-profit cause a visit !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use article excerpts or photographs featured here without contacting me first. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

***

***

Rosemary No-Knead Bread from the Windowsill Herb Garden …

January 2nd, 2010 § 13

Light snow is falling outside and the temperature here in Vermont is hovering around 30 degrees fahrenheit. A winter storm is expected tonight and it is predicted to continue throughout tomorrow. Meteorologists are promising us six to twelve inches of fluffy, new snow here in the Green Mountains. It sounds like I will be doing some shoveling and snow-shoeing with Oli on Monday. This season is filled with many pleasures, but some parts of winter are easier to deal with than others. I am already starting to miss the convenience of  ‘shopping’ for tomatoes and cucumbers in the backyard potager. True, there are stores of potatoes, onions, squash and other produce in the root cellar – but it will be awhile before I can sample the full flavors of spring and summer in my kitchen.

Of course a little bit of summer does manage to migrate into my house for the winter. Edible plants such as mint, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary line the countertop on either side of my kitchen window. Although these herbs prefer to live in the garden, I usually bring a few, (OK, as many as I can cram beside the sink), indoors to enjoy during the long months of winter. Rosemary is one of my favorites seasonings, and while it can be a fussy winter guest, I like to keep a small plant inside until late spring. I have had good luck growing rosemary indoors when I position the pot in a cool, (but not drafty), bright spot. Never let this plant dry-out. It is important to check the potting soil regularly. But take care not to kill with kindness – this Mediterranean plant dislikes overwatering. Rosemary’s soil should be kept on the slightly dry-side of moist, with a free-draining potting mix.

Although I love houseplants, and I always enjoy the scent of herbs when I brush against them beside the sink, the primary motivation for my indoor herb garden is, of course, cooking and baking. Yesterday afternoon, I mixed the dough for no-knead bread – my second experience with this recipe. And this morning, I baked two loaves in my new Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round French Oven. This pretty blue pot was a holiday gift – one I have been coveting for years. Beware: this is not an instant gratification recipe. In fact, the entire process takes about 21 hours. But the steps are quite simple, and I must say the results are very rewarding. The bread that came out of my oven today was every bit as good as any I can find within 20 miles of my home. It’s definitely worth the wait. In addition, the fresh herbs, (in this case rosemary), make for a very special dinner loaf and an especially fragrant home during baking.

Over the coming winter months, I will be writing more about edible indoor-gardening and cooking with fresh herbs. After experimenting with this recipe a few times, I thought it might be a good place to start. I’m eager to read about your results…

Rosmarinus officinalis, (rosemary), on my kitchen countertop

Rosemary No-Knead Bread

(Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for the New York Times and the original Jim Lahey recipe via Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients:

(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread)

3           cups bread flour, (I use King Arthur), plus extra for dusting

1/4        teaspoon instant yeast *

1 1/2     teaspoon salt, (I use ground sea salt)

1 1/2     cups water, (room temp)

1 1/2     tablespoons fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary, (or other herbs)

Olive oil for coating bowl

Cornmeal, (optional, I used flour for this recipe), for dusting

* If you can not find instant yeast, you may substitute 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast: Warm the 1 1/2 cups of water and add 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Follow the remaining directions as listed below.

Directions:

First Afternoon: Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large working bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, (room temperature), and blend to a shaggy looking mix. I added the fresh rosemary at this point, but if you forget, you can also add it, (or other herbs), on day two durning the folding process. Use olive oil to lightly coat a second large working bowl. Transfer the dough to the second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm room, (70 degrees fahrenheit is ideal), for 18 hours. Bubbles at the surface of the dough signal that it is ready to rework.

Next morning: Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Gently fold over a couple of times. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Once again, dust the work surface and your hands with a bit of flour and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle a plain, smooth cotton towel with flour, (or cornmeal), and place the dough on center. Cover with a second cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, (about 2 hours).

After an hour and a half of final rising: begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. While preheating, place a  2 3/4 – 8 quart heavy, lidded pot, (such as pyrex or enameled cast-iron), in the center of the oven. I use an enameled, cast-iron Le Creuset round, Dutch-style oven with lid, (I prefer this to glass for even baking of bread). Heat pot for 1/2 hour. Very carefully remove the hot container from oven with heavy mitts. Slide dough into the pot and shake to evenly distribute. Cover the pot and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Oven temperatures will vary, so watch very carefully the first time you make this bread.

Remove bread from the oven, roll out of the pot and cool on a wire rack. The loaf will stay freshest in a bread-box or bread-bag, loosely wrapped in plastic and/or a paper bag. Wrapping a loaf of bread tightly in plastic will make the surface soft instead of crusty. It’s best to eat fresh bread the day it is baked. Enjoy !

Start with good bread flour, fresh instant yeast and ground sea-salt for good results…

Next, add fresh, coarsely chopped rosemary to the dough…

Mixing the shaggy, sticky dough on day one…

Bubbles on the wet, sticky surface the next morning…

The shaped dough, resting in an olive oil coated bowl …

The no-knead dough, settled into a heated, Le Creuset French oven…

And the finished loaf, rolled out to cool on a wire rack

***

Article and photographs ⓒ  Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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